Friday 21 September, 2018

Saffrey scolds Minister over homeless comment

FILE - Kemar Saffrey, Founder and President of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society.

FILE - Kemar Saffrey, Founder and President of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society.

Head of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society (BVHS), Kemar Saffrey, believes Minister of Social Care, Steve Blackett, is out of line for comments he made during a sitting in the House of Assembly earlier this week.

On Tuesday the Minister accused the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) of heralding "the advent of vagrancy in Barbados". He added that his administration had "inherited vagrancy from the Barbados Labour Party.” 

However, Saffrey, speaking to Loop News criticised the Minister for using the difficult social issue to score political points.

“We know the economy has played a significant role so it would be wrong for us to blame any political party, much less the Barbados Labour Party, for the inheritance of homelessness. And if the Minister is using that to score political points then he is wrong.”

In fact, he contended, based on the 10 years he has been running the organisation, the number of homeless people and vagrants has increased since the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) has stepped into office, especially for women.

“Under the Barbados Labour Party, to my knowledge, there were no women on the streets. Now under the present government there are a lot of women and growing. And there is a large number of millennials and growing, from 16 and up. That is a major thing we have seen, women, and women with children and unborn children. Now we have it that there are two to five persons becoming homeless per week.”

He said while he recognised that the international financial crisis of 2008 put the DLP administration under much strain, he said the focus should be seeking ways to lower statistics as opposed to casting blame.

“On file now there are 411 persons who would have come through the organisation between 2012 to 2016 that were affected by homelessness and vagrancy - that is a lot.

“We cannot go around saying that homelessness is an inheritance of any party or anyone. I think what we need to look at is what the party in power is doing to assist or eradicate homelessness. What the government has to do, whether it be the Barbados Labour Party or the Democratic Labour Party, is to find solutions. Until the Minister put his focus there then the homelessness in this country will always rise and it will rise until it addressed.”

Saffrey said the BVHS had compiled a report which they presented to government highlighting the plight of the homeless, its causes and possible solutions that Government can implement to tackle the issue but, he noted, such recommendations were not taken on board.